By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) After four fruitless years, their supposed search for the truth has ended with a thud. The Paterno family came to understand that all the criminal testimony and civil judgments were real enough, it seems, and their bombastic lawsuit against the NCAA’s punishment of Penn State and implication of their patriarch is over. The suit was dropped abruptly last week.
It’s a far cry from the high dudgeon of their initial filing, one that alleged that the NCAA “intentionally and tortiously interfered with Plaintiffs’ contractual relations, and defamed and commercially disparaged Plaintiffs.” Now it’s simply a failed attempt to claw back value of the deservedly ruined family brand.
The $93 million in settlements paid by the school to victims, the four criminal convictions and the ensuing words from judge John Boccabella that pointed a finger directly at Joe Paterno himself have a way of driving reality even through the thickest and most delusional of skulls. So somewhere O.J. still pursues the real killers, and the president creates a commission to identify those three million fraudulent votes, but the Paterno family’s legal crusade to create an alternate history quietly goes pffffffffft.
Only this family can be odious enough to make a protagonist out of the NCAA, which was more than pleased to spike the ball.
“(The family’s) decision today, after years of investigation and discovery, to abandon its lawsuit rather than subject those facts to courtroom examination is telling,” its chief legal officer said. “It’s disappointing that so much time, effort and financial resources have been wasted on efforts by the Paterno family in this litigation.”
It’s always about them, remember, and never about the boys raped by Jerry Sandusky while Paterno knowingly allowed it to keep happening.
Even after they withdrew the suit, Sue Paterno — now just a desiccated tangle seemingly held together by hairspray and craven selfishness — felt compelled to declare that this was something other than more embarrassment for her and her sad children. She assailed the NCAA statement, claiming the suit ended for financial reasons only. A family’s name is only worth the fight up to a point, apparently.
The widow can be only one of two things. Either she’s blinded by loyalty to genuinely not believe all of the evidence presented that damns her late husband, in no way fundamentally different from Dottie Sandusky’s behavior. Or she’s entirely aware and fighting a cynical and desperate campaign that heedlessly tramples victims over and over again at every turn. Neither is a good look.
Jay Paterno now sits on the Penn State board of trustees, a position that he pursued in an obvious effort to lead an insurrection of like-minded cultists that will pretend that decades of child-rape facilitated by Paterno and the football program never happened. It’s not even a veiled goal anymore, especially after one board member was forced to quit after railing to a reporter about “running out of sympathy for so-called victims” and saying he was “tired of victims getting in the way of clearer thinking.”
Jay Paterno will keep at it, because he has nothing left to do with himself or his sorry name. He’d be best served to listen to his own observations on film in the award-winning documentary Happy Valley.
Seeing “Paterno” on his father’s gravestone, he said, “It used to mean one thing, now it means something else.”